Covering Louisiana

Nov 19, 2013 12:06 PM by katc

Senators Push for Flood Insurance Reform on NDAA

Today, U.S. Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., David Vitter, R-La., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Ed Markey, D-Mass., filed their Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation would fix major flaws in the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform law to make the National Flood Insurance Program affordable, accessible and self-sustainable.

"The nearly 500,000 flood insurance policyholders in Louisiana and 5.5 million across the nation cannot wait any longer for a solution to skyrocketing flood insurance rates. We need to pass the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act now to delay the most dangerous rate increases under Biggert-Waters. We have a strong, growing coalition of bipartisan House and Senate members from across the country, business groups, non-profits and local leaders who agree that this legislation is the fix we need. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment so we can fix the flawed Biggert-Waters Act and build a future that Louisianians can count on, where they can safely and affordably live where they have for generations providing the energy our country needs, keeping commerce flowing and making the products we need to grow our economy," Sen. Landrieu said.

Specifically, this legislation will delay the most aggressive rate increases until FEMA understands how they will impact individual policyholders and the program at large. It also requires FEMA to certify that their flood maps are accurate and ensures that local levees and other flood control structures are treated fairly in the mapping process. Other provisions include reimbursement to qualifying homeowners for successful map appeals and the establishment of a Flood Insurance Advocate within FEMA to aid and assist policyholders.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act is the result of weeks of bipartisan collaboration and consultation with the business community, local leaders and industry representatives. A House companion bill was also introduced by Representatives Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., and has more than 130 bipartisan cosponsors from across the country.

Yesterday, Sen. Landrieu welcomed six new Senate cosponsors to the bill: Cory Booker, D-N.J., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Kay Hagan, D-N.C., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. and Bob Casey, D-Pa.

View a timeline of Sen. Landrieu's work to fix flood insurance and learn more about her #MyHomeMyStory effort, a movement to make flood insurance affordable.

The legislation will:

· Delay implementation of flood insurance rate increases and protects NFIP policyholders who have no annual cap on their rate increases and have seen their property values plummet as a direct result of Biggert-Waters. This includes all homes and businesses that were built to code and later remapped into a higher risk area and all properties that were built before flood maps were released which could see their rates skyrocket overnight when they try to sell their property.

· Provide targeted rate relief to these policyholders until FEMA certifies that their maps are accurate and reliable, and Congress has an opportunity to review and take action on the draft affordability framework FEMA will develop using the findings of the study mandated by Biggert-Waters.

· Provide funds to reimburse homeowners for successful map appeals: Allows FEMA to utilize NFIP to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination. FEMA currently has the authority to reimburse eligible expenses related to surveyors, engineers or similar services, but Congress has not appropriated funding for this account.

· Eliminate penalties on communities self-financing flood protection: FEMA's AR and A99 flood zone categories provide more affordable flood insurance to qualifying communities in the process of levee construction, reconstruction, and improvements. Current regulations require a certain level of federal funding to qualify for either an A99 or an AR designation and prevent FEMA from giving communities fair credit for improvements made to existing flood control systems. Proactive communities that are actively investing in mitigation should not be penalized for self-financing flood protection projects.

· Protect the basement exception that allows the lowest proofed opening in a home to be used for determining flood insurance rates. This impacts 54 communities nation-wide where basements are necessary to protect homeowners and businesses from extreme weather.

· Establish a Flood Insurance Rate Map Advocate within FEMA to answer current and prospective policyholder questions about the flood mapping process. The Rate Map Advocate will be responsible for educating policyholders about their individual flood risks, assisting property owners through the map appeals process, and improve outreach and coordination with local officials and community leaders.



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